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Taste of Research

The Taste of Research projects will provide undergraduate physics students with the opportunity to undertake a small research project within the School of Physics during Semester 2, 2017. Details about available projects are listed below. 

Students can choose to undertake projects for course credit, or voluntarily. Students in Advanced Science degrees can enrol into SCIF 2041 or SCIF3041 (each 6 UOC). Students in the Bachelor of science degree can enrol into PHYS4200.

Stellar Polarimetry at UNSW 
Polarimetry is a technique for measuring the orientation of photons. Most starlight is unpolarised, but processes that involve asymmetric scattering or large magnetic fields polarise light. By studying polarisation we can learn about the atmospheres of stars and planets and their immediate environments, or even free-floating dust in space and interstellar magnetic fields. At UNSW we are pioneering the use of ferro-electric crystals as polarimetric modulators. These devices allow us to beat the effects of atmospheric turbulence and measure the polarisation of stars to unprecedented levels. We have two instruments – one we use on Australia’s largest optical telescope, and another we use at UNSW’s Kensington Campus. A student working with our group will have the opportunity to get hands-on, taking data with the telescope and instrument on campus. They will also develop/employ computer code to analyse and interpret the data in collaboration with other group members.
Calculating unknown spectra of superheavy elements
The study of the superheavy elements (nuclear charge Z > 100) is an important multidisciplinary area of research involving nuclear physics, atomic physics, and chemistry. Calculations of the atomic spectra are needed for planning and interpreting measurements; these involve understanding the role of quantum electrodynamic and many-body effects. Our group has developed high precision computer codes for atomic calculations. A student should use these codes to perform calculations of atomic properties to help guide experimental efforts.
A strong interest in theoretical physics and numerical calculations is essential for this project.
Astronomers think massive galaxies become massive by undergoing many mergers with other galaxies. We will examine how many close companion galaxies these massive galaxies have and what those companions mean for the future growth of the massive galaxies.
Quantum computing
Quantum computation focuses on using quantum bits to encode information. Unlike classical bits, which can be either 0 or 1, quantum bits exploit the superposition principle and can be in any combination of 0 and 1, which can make computation considerably faster and open new avenues that are inaccessible with classical bits. The two key problems facing the community at present are increasing the lifetimes of quantum bits (coherence), which determines how long quantum information can be stored, and devising ways to couple two or more bits so that complex operations can be performed in practice (entanglement). The research projects will focus on these two phenomena, devising novel strategies to beat decoherence mechanisms and to control interactions between quantum bits.
Topological quantum matter
In recent years a large number of physical phenomena have been ascribed to topological mechanisms, in which the curvature of the eigenspace of the system plays a vital role in determining the robust quantisation of response functions. These phenomena are so widespread nowadays that the 2016 Nobel Prize was awarded to three scientists who revealed their topological nature, and the Australian Research Council has established the Centre of Excellence in Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies to investigate topological materials and effects. The research projects will focus on establishing the role of topological terms in the response functions of a series of newly discovered materials, including topological insulators, Weyl semimetals, and transition metal dichalcogenides. 
What can molecules in space tell us about how stars form?
The processes surrounding the births and deaths of stars, particularly massive stars, drive the evolution of galaxies. However, the physics that underpins star formation is not well understood. In this project, we look at how we can use molecules in the interstellar medium to find regions of gas with different physical processes occurring, to help us understand how stars form. There is an opportunity to learn some Python programming during this project, for interested students.
I am offering projects in theoretical cosmology.  Possible topics include cosmic inflation, Big Bang Nucleosynthesis, the cosmic microwave background or the formation of the Universe’s large scale structures.  Depending on your interests, the projects will involve a literature review, and analytic calculations or a bit of numerical work.
My research group works in the area of "Galactic archaeology" - using the present-day abundances and motions of large numbers of stars in the Milky Way to investigate its history and evolution. We use data from large spectroscopic and kinematic surveys for projects that include mapping the stellar compositions in the Galactic disk, modelling the migration of stars through the disk, and identifying stars that have been captured from other galaxies.
Coherent spin manipulation and control of organic electronics
(ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science)
Coherent quantum effects are usually associated with extremely low temperature, making widespread technological applications difficult. Projects in the Centre for Exciton Science will investigate organic semiconductors, a class of material which exhibit quantum coherence in devices operating at room temperature. Projects may involve activities ranging from device design and fabrication in an oxygen free environment, to developing experimental systems for room temperature coherent control of spin states. The goal is to perform electrically or optically detected spin resonance experiments on a range of organic molecules, thereby increasing our understanding of spin coherence in these materials. Students interested in this area are encouraged to contact Dane to design a project that fits their interest and skills.
Spin based spectroscopy of light harvesting and modifying materials
(ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science)
The interaction of light with molecules leads to the formation of excitons. Projects in the Centre for Exciton Science will investigate molecular and nanoscale systems that allow engineering of the light spectrum via a range of spin dependent exciton interactions. Projects may involve activities ranging from device design and fabrication in an oxygen free environment, to developing experimental systems for optically exciting and measuring the influence of spin in these novel materials. The goal is to increase our understanding of electronic processes which can improve the efficient conversion of light into charge, and therefore improve energy generation in photovoltaic materials. Students interested in this area are encouraged to contact Dane to design a project that fits their interest and skills.
My group is interested in electronic devices featuring nanoscale semiconductor conducting channels, e.g., semiconductor nanowires, nanofins and carbon nanotubes, and how they can be interfaced to soft materials, e.g., organic insulators like parylene or ion-transporting materials like nafion, and biological systems, e.g., biomolecular motors. Current projects range from fundamental studies of electron transport in semiconductor nanofins, to developing neural sensing elements using complementary circuits based on semiconductor nanowires, to electrical read-out in protein motor-based biocomputation architectures.
Manipulating nanoparticles with holographic optical tweezers
Optical tweezers use the momentum carrying properties of light to confine and manipulate nanometre- and micrometre-scaled objects at the focus of a high magnification microscope objective lens. Combining optical tweezers with holographic techniques allows for the direct manipulation of multiple trapped objects in three dimensions. In this project you will create digital holograms for the purpose of manipulating nanoparticles in amusing ways. Along the way you will (hopefully) learn about optical tweezers, adaptive optics, Fourier optics, holography and nanoparticle physics
In this project students will work with state-of-the-art FinFET nano-transistors, which have been recently utilised in high-performance and mobile-application processors by major manufactures, e.g. Intel 14nm technology. You will hands-on understand the working of such an ultra-scaled device in its conventional setting and the link to silicon-based quantum-computation where we utilise single-electron tunneling to read out single-atom quantum bits. The project will give you insight into modern device-physics, ultra-low noise measurements, and quantum information processing. The work will be carried out in the Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at the School of Physics.
This project will fuse two rapidly developing lines of research, artificial intelligence (AI) and asteroseismology - the sounds of stars.  The rapid increase in asteroseismic data makes current -- largely manual -- analysis methods inadequate.  This bottleneck will soon be a major limit for progress when vasts amounts of time series data will flow from NASA and ESA space missions for plant detection and asteroseismology starting late 2018 and into the next decade.

The project will take advantage of recent dramatic progress made in AI such as deep learning neutral networks. AI now powers many aspects of society including speech and image recognition and web browsing, driven by software companies like Google and Microsoft.  A trial by our group has shown that AI can be used to analyse time series data fully automatically and extremely fast for asteroseismic signal detection and classification.  The project aims to test new aspects of asteroseismic analysis using AI.

Using ESA’s Gaia satellite to expand the sample of white dwarfs near the Sun
White dwarfs are the compact, degenerate remnants of burned out stars. Because they cool in a known manner, they can be used to measure the age of the original star they formed from. ESA’s all-sky Gaia mission will be an ideal way to identify a new volume-limited ample of these stars near the Sun, which in turn can be used to probe the star-formation history of our Galaxy. In this project you will learn how to query the Gaia database to identify sample of white dwarfs that could then be followed up with the new southern sky FunnelWeb spectroscopic survey.
Using ESA’s Gaia satellite to measure the proper motions of nearby galaxies
The first data release from ESA’s Gaia satellite has provided a sample of stars with positions known to an unprecedented accuracy. In this project you will use 20-year old images of nearby galaxies obtained with the ESO New Technology Telescope of a sample of very distant quasars behind those galaxies. By using the non-moving quasar you will try to measure the movements of the stars in the galaxy across the sky.
The Acoustics lab works on the fundamental physics of the voice, and also on the physics of the musician-instrument interaction, chiefly on wind instruments. Sometimes it is possible for a student who is also a musician to do a project on some aspect of his/her instrument. It’s best if you discuss this with Joe Wolfe directly.